By Isaac Nuwagaba
The Member of Parliament for Aringa South in Yumbe district, Alioni Yorke Odria, is set to exchange marriage vows with his partner, Jacqueline Bacia, in a move aimed at legalising the couple’s union.
Odria, 40, declared his intent in front of the congregation at St. Paul’s Church of Uganda, Okuvu parish in Kinawataka ward, Nakawa division in Kampala city.
This was after the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu, touched Odria’s heart when he invited cohabiting couples to solemnise their relationships and wear wedding rings while preaching.
“I am convicted by the archbishop Kaziimba’s sermon, asking men to wed their wives and declare to the world the true love they have for them,” Odria said.
“I can’t be among those whom the Archbishop has given a mass wedding offer in this church on October 31, 2022, because I have got the capacity to conduct the ceremony singlehandedly. I married when I was poor, but I am thankful that God has given me five children and my wife is wonderful, loving, and committed to our union.
“I have five children with her; three girls, a set of twins (a boy and a girl) and my wife listens to me and loves me. I want to appreciate her love for me and my family in public for the first time,” he explained.
Odria’s wedding is set for October 8, 2022 at Mvara Emmanuel Cathedral, Madi, and West Nile diocese in Arua district, where Kaziimba is expected to preside over the ceremony.
According to the programme, Odria said: “Our second cerebrations shall be at home in Drajini sub-county, Yumbe district on Sunday when Uganda marks the 60th Independence Day celebrations on October 9, 2022.”
The Archbishop of Uganda offered to wed couples in a mass wedding, the first of its kind as a mark to affirm the status of the Lugbara-founded Okuvu Church as a new parish in the diocese of Kampala diocese.
Kaziimba advised the couples against living together despite the customary marriage being legally recognised by the laws of Uganda.
“I call upon couples to always consider legalising their marriages after giveaway ceremonies to strengthen the union with God,” he added. “Although the couple’s families had blessed the union, customary marriage is not recognised by God.”
Over 30 couples registered for the mass wedding that shall take place on October 31, 2022, at St. Paul’s Church Okuvu parish in Kampala.
The battle between religious and customary marriages is one that has been fought for long and debates about the same don’t seem to end.
To some couples, choosing a customary marriage first guarantees blessings from the couple’s families, whereas a religious marriage means God, too, has blessed their union.
Most people, therefore, argue that the significance of both blessings cannot be overlooked and choosing one leaves the other pending.
Richard Akuma, chief warden and the Fathers’ Union chairperson at St. Paul’s Church Okuvu parish, cautioned that today’s marriage ceremonies have become expensive and too demanding, especially for a young couple that only wants to have a legal union.
“Many people do not value a marriage that doesn’t come with an expensive ceremony. People should overlook expenses because a church marriage, for instance, only needs the couple, a pair of witnesses, and a priest to bless it,” Akuma advised.
What scriptures say
“Often during a church marriage, reference is made to Mark 10:9 which forbids anybody from separating that which God has joined,” Akuma revealed.
He addsed: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
This shows that church marriage is conducted according to God’s directives.
What does the law say?
According to Twinobusingye Severino, an advocate, a commissioner for oaths, legal consultant, and notary public at Twinobusingye Severino & Co. Advocates, once a marriage has been contracted within the law, the rights that accrue to the couple during the marriage and in the dissolution of the marriage are the same.
“It does not matter how the marriage was contracted, whether civil, customary or church or Islamic marriage,” he says.
Twinobusingye notes that some people contract customary marriage according to a woman’s customs and after some time contract religious marriage.
He adds that legally, the subsequent religious marriage only makes the marriage monogamous and nothing else.
On people who contract civil marriage before the registrar and proceed for religious union, Twinobusingye says the subsequent marriage is of no legal consequence, but a waste of time and money since both marriages are monogamous.
He says a religious marriage is also part of civil marriage; however, it is the church leader who officiates the function on behalf of the State.
“A church must be licensed before it can conduct legally recognised marriages. Couples intending to get married in a given church should inquire if the church of their choice can legally wed them.”
Existing legal marriages
There are two legal marriages; customary and civil marriage. Civil marriage can be divided into marriage conducted before the Registrar, church, and mosque.
According to the law, each of the different kinds of marriage comes with a marriage certificate as evidence of marriage but is only differentiated by what they uphold.
Contrary to what many people think, customary marriage is a legal marriage and the couple can apply for a marriage certificate at the sub-county where the customary marriage was conducted. Having just a customary marriage or just a church marriage is legal by law despite some differences as Twinobusingye says.
“Customary marriages are polygamous since they allow for one to introduce as many women as they wish to their family, unlike civil and church marriage which is monogamous since the law permits one man one woman.”
According to Kaziimba, the Church of Uganda, under his leadership, shall continue to emphasise marriage as the lifelong, exclusive bond between one man and one woman for procreation.